Spotlight on S3: Raising a Company’s Profile
Strategic Staffing Solutions
Strategic Staffing Solutions (S3) was a small information technology staffing services consulting firm that assisted businesses implementing new computer programs or systems. Started from scratch in 1990 by president, CEO and owner Cynthia J. Pasky, the Detroit-based company had grown to five branches across the country with annual revenues of more than $12 million by 1996.
While S3 had experienced steady growth in its initial years, Pasky decided that continued expansion required a more aggressive approach to public relations, marketing and community outreach activities. She approached Bob Berg to assist her in generating media coverage for S3 and in making the political and social connections around the city and region that would help her business. Berg began working with her in a consulting role and when Berg Muirhead & Associates was formed, S3 became the firm’s first client.
Any public relations efforts for the company faced two challenges. First, S3’s size – despite its rapid growth – was relatively insignificant in comparison to information technology industry giants, even locally. The second problem was the nature of the industry itself; information technology staffing services did not, at first glance, generate extremely lively stories. “Newsworthy” announcements do not typically occur in a company of S3’s size and structure, particularly compared to larger information technology corporations.
S3’s visibility has risen steadily in the business media in Detroit. When Crain’s Detroit Business decided to do a story on how a company makes the decision to go public, it featured S3 on the front page of its small business section, including a large, color photograph of Pasky. Earlier in 1999 Pasky decided to establish the firm’s first office outside the U.S. by opening operations in Lithuania. That decision earned a prominent story and large color picture on the front of the business section of The Detroit News. Pasky also has found herself contacted more often by reporters for reaction to developments related to her business.
To increase Pasky’s public image and add to her credibility, the agency began to nominate S3 and Pasky for business-related awards on a regular basis. Berg counseled Pasky on specific public affairs issues and arranged meetings with important business contacts. As the company has continued to grow in size and services, the agency has begun to pursue relationships with national information technology and staffing services trade publications, as well as to develop a communications strategy for a major campaign related to S3’s upcoming initial public offering (IPO).
S3 has continued to grow, becoming DTE Energy's master vendor for Information Technology (IT) contract labor and the largest contractor of IT services for Bank One. The company employs approximately 650 people in 11 branches across the country and in Lithuania, with annual sales of $67 million in 2003.
Berg Muirhead & Associates has become an integral part of S3’s corporate team. Pasky and her company have won multiple local and national awards, both within the industry and for entrepreneurial success. She and S3 have been featured in numerous publications, and have established a media presence in several of the branch locations. Pasky also is developing relationships with reporters and editors of national trade publications, including several that have done articles on S3. These activities have resulted in significant business opportunities and public recognition for Pasky and are an example of what a strong working relationship between a company and its communications consultant can accomplish.
The challenge was to identify those aspects of S3 that were unique and substantial enough to be of interest to members of the general news media and then draw attention to them. At the same time, Berg Muirhead devoted attention to trade publications that would be interested in industry-related developments.
The agency began with an information audit of the company, looking at both its business operations and its community outreach activities. For instance, S3 had a program under which it helped finance the start-up of other companies that could conceivably be viewed as competition. That program generated an early article in Crain’s Detroit Business, the first of a number of mentions in that important business publication through the years.
Pasky had an intense personal interest and involvement with the Detroit Symphony Orchestra. Berg Muirhead highlighted that involvement, including the S3’s decision to provide flowers on stage for the season opening performance each year, as well as Pasky’s annual “Musical Feast” fundraiser for the orchestra.
The company had its own St. Patrick’s Day lunch of corned beef and cabbage. The agency worked with Pasky to invite members of the business press to the luncheon, and a number showed up to the event.
Berg Muirhead also began a regular distribution of new hire press releases as well as press releases for corporate announcements of public relevance, such as new branch openings and acquisitions. The steady releases helped to emphasize the company’s steady growth to the reporters who received them.
As S3 has expanded into other markets through acquisitions or opening new offices, Berg Muirhead has handled public relations in those markets as well, issuing the releases, making follow-up calls to appropriate media and monitoring the results.